Any organization today, even a small one, has multiple platforms it uses to reach their audiences. Communications professionals are often tasked with managing at least one website, possibly an intranet, a variety of social media networks, and digital signs targeting employees, visitors, or both. That can be a lot to handle, and it’s tempting to create a single message and publish it across all of these platforms to save time.
However, although each platform is an important part of a comprehensive digital communications plan, they’re not all the same. Each has a different format, different audience, and people interact with each of these platforms in a unique way.
It’s important to keep these variances in mind when designing digital communications for different systems, so you can adapt the format while keeping your core message intact.
Let’s take a single example and follow it through some possible platforms. Let’s say your business is called Perardi Solutions, and you want to get the word out that you’ve won the Watts Business Excellence Gold Medal, an important small business award.
For internal communications, you want to recognize those employees, departments and teams that helped make the award possible. You’ll also want to publicize the award to clients and the public.
For digital signs in your offices, you’ll want to create a series of Thank You or Good Job messages to be scheduled to digital signage playlists on screens where your employees spend time – hallways, break rooms, meeting rooms, elevator banks, etc.
These messages might include pictures of the people being highlighted, as well as the trophy itself. The call to action could be something as basic as “Congratulate Tonya and Her Team” or could include a QR code or short URL that takes the viewer to a dedicated webpage with details.
You’ll also want visitors to HQ to know about the award, since it enhances your reputation in the public eye. The content team should make another set of messages mentioning the win, but maybe not naming specific individuals. Instead, they can focus on specific praise from the Watts Organization (top customer service, best employee benefits, etc.).
And for the rest of the year, they can add a small Gold Medal logo to any message that relates to the award you’ve won. These should be displayed in public areas – lobby and waiting areas, public on-site facilities like a café, and even on wayfinding touchscreens.
The call to action would be slightly different, with an offer to get more information about the award and the products/services recognized.
The format of your digital signage messages will depend on the screen layout and the software driving the signs, but designs should be simple and to the point, so people can notice and register the message in just a few seconds as they’re passing by the screens.
- Internal messages should focus on recognizing employees and teams; should only be shown in staff areas; show for one or two weeks
- External messages recognize company achievement as a whole, and can tie into product and service promotions; should be shown in public areas for at least 30 days
- Design formats will depend on screen layout and software
- All messages should include a call to action for viewers to get more information
Perardi might have both a public website and an intranet for employees. For internal messages on digital signs, you may want your call to action to point to the intranet. Whereas the public-facing signs should prompt people to visit your public site. If your company doesn’t have a website, you could link out to the Watts Organization’s site.
(You might think that everyone has a website these days, but you’d be wrong. 46% of small businesses in the US still don’t have a website at all, according to a 2016 study by Clutch, with 22% of them saying either they have no plans to build one or are unsure if they will. Some small businesses use a Facebook page instead of a website. It accomplishes much of what a website does, but is free and less work.)
But Perardi has a website, and that means you have lots of room to delve into the details. So, you can create a press release and post it on your site, as well as sending it out to various editors and news outlets.
You might also have a separate page where you list award wins, and some information about the award category and winning product/service should suffice. It’s always a good idea to show a graphic versus just listing the award using text, since people are naturally attracted to visuals. Usually, a small graphic of the award logo will do.
On your homepage, you can add a graphic touting the win in your header carousel, or just use a text callout at the top of the page, or in a sidebar, to publicize the award. Wherever you mention it, the graphic or text should be hyperlinked to take people directly to the press release page.
If you also have an intranet, you can reinforce employee recognition by posting kudos in the homepage feed. Instead of duplicating the press release here, you should post multiple links for employees to get more information – point to the press release, Watts Organization website, etc.
It’s likely you can adapt your digital signage designs for websites – possibly posting the exact same files. But that will depend on the page format, colors, etc. If you’re following brand guidelines in all of your designs, you should be able to easily mix and match, and repurpose designs across platforms.
- Public website should use graphics to attract attention; can use more text to go into details and stay online indefinitely
- Intranet should reinforce internal stakeholder interests; can include multiple links for employees to get more details; show for one or two weeks
- Design formats will depend on website design and page layouts
LinkedIn is something like a cross between a social network and a content marketing site, and actually prefers longer posts. The best performing posts on that platform are around 2000+ words, divided into five sub-headings. However, the reading level should be “easy” on the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease test, and the tone should be neutral.
Basically, this is a good place to post your press release, just reformat it a bit. Use emojis as bullet points, and break the text into easily-digestible segments. And then, at the end of the post, ask your audience a question – this will generate far more engagement than an info-only post. You can hashtags, but a maximum of five is recommended.
- Repost press release, and possibly expand the text to 2000+ words
- Use neutral, easy-to-read text
- Break into segments, use sub-headings, bullet points and emojis
- End your post with a question for readers
- Image/video format is 1200×768
You’ll want to advertise the award on your Facebook page. The first thing you should do is see if the Watts Organization has already created a post about award recipients. If so, it’s actually better to share their post than create a new one of your own. (And, it’s a lot less work!)
There’s something called the 80-20 rule for Facebook – 20% of your content should be original and 80% should be curated from other sources.
Entrepreneur and author Gary Vaynerchuk calls it the Give, Give, Give, Ask Rule. Hootsuite says one-third of your feed should be shared ideas and stories, one-third should be personal interactions with followers, and the last third can be promoting your business. Whichever rule you follow, sharing is an important part of Facebook culture.
Facebook and other social media platforms are there to establish the organization as a valuable resource and repository of information, as well as create a sense of community. By sharing the post created by someone else, you don’t come across as self-serving and also increase the possibility of more people finding your own page.
The more connections between pages and posts, the more Facebook likes it. If the Watts Organization isn’t going to create a post, maybe there’s an article somewhere online from an industry source that you can share.
If there’s nowhere to find a post to share, then create your own. You’ll need text, an image or video, and at least one link. You may be able to repurpose visuals here, but make sure they look good in your feed on both desktops and mobile. Any visuals need to be high-quality and can be either 16:9 or square (which is better for mobile).
You want the text to be short and concise – no more than 20 words in the headline and no more than 50 words in the description (and preferably fewer words than that). If it fits with your brand’s style, use a couple of emojis in the copy to show reactions – people respond to them, and they can actually save you some words.
Headlines should not be clickbait, but give a clear idea as to what the post is about. Offer a call to action, perhaps a link to a webpage, but only one – more than that and Facebook users tend to get turned off. You can include hashtags if you like, but only one or two.
- Share a post if possible, versus creating your own
- Keep headlines to under 20 words and posts to under 50 words
- Use high-quality, 16:9 images whenever possible
- Format post visuals at 1200×768; event headers at 1920×1080
- Include one hyperlink, and one or two hashtags
For Twitter, reduce your message down to a single sentence. They’ve recently increased their character limit from 140 to 280, which still isn’t a lot (the average length of a tweet is 33 characters).
Try to include at least one party to mention or praise with the @ symbol, and use a few hashtags to augment the message and create connections to the wider Twitterverse.
So, Perardi could post something like “So proud – Lee Watts Gold Medal for Excellence for 2019 in Customer Service and Employee Benefits. Thanks @WattsOrganization https://bit.do/PerardiWattsAward #winner #customerservice” plus an image or video that reinforces the message.
- Focus on brevity; use a single sentence under 280 words
- Include @ tags and one to six hashtags
- Use an image or video to reinforce the post
- Visual format is 440×220 (2:1 ratio); up to four visuals per tweet (max 5MB)
Like Twitter, you want to reduce the text as much as possible, so cut out all unnecessary words. Put the most important word at the very top of the post. Your text will ideally be no more than three lines long.
Most people will have to tap “more” to continue reading after that, and many won’t. Keep it to 125 characters (not including hashtags). Most people use Instagram at a breakneck pace, scrolling through dozens of images in just moments, so make it easy for them to notice, understand and interact with your message in seconds.
The more of the text you can convert into hashtags, the better. The best performing Instagram posts have around 30 hashtags, though there are engagement spikes at 5, 10 and 15 hashtags as well.
Posts with emojis also have almost 50% more engagement than those without, so they are crucial for success. Use the emojis like bullet points for each item or set of hashtags in your post.
Hashtags are how Instagram indexes posts, and decides who to show them to, so they don’t really need to be visible.
One way to “hide” hashtags is to make sure they don’t show up in the post until line four or later – that way they can’t be seen unless someone presses “more”. Another way is to put them in the comments field below the post right after you publish it.
Your image should be either arresting and beautiful, or personal. Instagram is all about the visuals. People respond to things that seem personal, and they really dislike stock photography.
Your text and picture should go together to tell a story. In our example, it might be a good idea to take a picture of an employee holding the award, with the rest of the team smiling behind them.
The text can be something like “Tonia and team sooo happy with Watts Gold Medal win! #happy #winning #teamspirit #wattsorg #perardipride #love #celebrate #customerservice #wearethechampions #goldmedal” with some emojis scattered throughout that.
- Focus on visuals and hashtags
- Keep posts to 125 characters, excluding hashtags
- Aim for 30 hashtags, don’t use less than five
- Consider “hiding” hashtags at bottom of post or in comments
- Use personal imagery; stay away from stock photos
- Design visuals at 1080×1080; or 1080×1920 (9:16) for stories
Pinterest is more about discovering than sharing, and while it also needs high-quality visuals like Instagram, the audience is quite different. Most of Instagram’s users are under 35, while Pinterest users tend to be older. Also, more women use Pinterest than men.
One main difference is that Pinterest allows for link sharing, while Instagram doesn’t allow clickable links at all. So, include links to both your public webpage/press release, but also to the Watts Organization’s page, and maybe a couple of other relevant sites as well.
Instagram pictures with human faces get more engagement, but on Pinterest images without human faces get repinned 23% more often. Lots of colors (especially red) also appeal to Pinterest users. So, you’ll want to take a picture specifically for Pinterest that’s a little bit different than the ones you use for other platforms.
- Appeal to viewers over 35 years of age
- Include links to websites; use four or five hashtags
- Visuals should not include faces; use lots of colors, especially red
- Pins appear at 236 pixels wide (height is scaled); expanded pins at minimum 600 pixels wide
Using JPG file formats is a good common denominator across most social platforms. You should also consider combining a few visuals into a video slideshow instead of just a single static image (video posts get far more engagement on all social networks).
If you use any other social media portals, you’ll similarly want to adapt and adjust your post to that specific platform. There are websites online that are constantly being updated with specs for social media as platforms evolve, so be sure to check them often:
To be successful at digital communications, you really shouldn’t just make a single thing – post, graphic, etc. and share it “as is” to other platforms. Each portal has particular parameters that can make your messages more effective if you adapt and tailor your communications for each medium.
Yet you also want consistency across platforms, so a user can immediately recognize the message, no matter where they encounter it. The more they see your message, the more likely they are to interact with it.
Even though you may have to reformat for each digital communications platform, you can still use common image elements and core phrases for all of your posts.
Think of the imagery you use as branding for this one piece of information (“We won this award”). You probably already have a brand identity you can use, with defined colors and fonts. Or, you might develop a specific look and feel for a messaging campaign.
Digital Communications Summary
The name of the game these days is content, content, content. There’s an almost insatiable need for it everywhere. A single message – be it a new product or service, a milestone reached, an award won (as in our example), a new building, 401k enrollment or whatever – can be published to every place your organization has a digital footprint.
Each digital communications method reinforces the others to help create a cohesive digital communications strategy. And, by crafting your messages to fit the medium, you can grow your audience and have a better chance to engage them.